“Can you lift up your voice to the clouds, so that a flood of waters may cover you? Can you send forth lightnings, so that they may go and say to you, ‘Here we are’? Who has put wisdom in the inward parts, or given understanding to the mind? Who has the wisdom to number the clouds? Or who can tilt the waterskins of the heavens, when the dust runs into a mass and the clods cling together? Can you hunt the prey for the lion, or satisfy the appetite of the young lions, when they crouch in their dens, or lie in wait in their covert? Who provides for the raven its prey, when its young ones cry to God, and wander about for lack of food?
Reflection by Matthew Alexander
I must admit that God would receive an F in pastoral care class based on this response to Job’s pain and suffering. God doesn’t seem to have much compassion for Job’s pain. Job is depressed and lost. His closest friends are telling him that he needs to get right with God before it’s too late. He has lost everything that is important to him. He seems to be beaten down as far as a person can be beaten down. My human nature tells me that when we come across folks like this we need to be gentle and kind. We need to extend mercy and allow them the time to heal from their wounds. Not God though.
God’s voice is not gentle but strong and firm as he tells Job to “Gird up your loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall declare to me.” God commands Job to look around him. God wants Job to see the created world. The world that is dangerous, wild and chaotic. In a whirlwind of clouds, God reminds Job who created this wild world and who put the limitations on it. While God’s response seems harsh, it is fascinating nonetheless.
I know that in dealing with my own depression that the downward spiral into the self is powerful. The isolation and the notion that nobody understands is a powerful force that can drag a person deeper into a life consuming black hole. Depression causes barriers to be set up to protect oneself from an unsafe world. It can cast blame on oneself for all that is going wrong. The deeper you go into yourself the smaller the world becomes.
Perhaps in God’s wisdom in this passage, God shouts and commands Job to wake up because it was the only thing that was going to save him at the time. God needed to pull Job out of himself and bring him back into the world. Yes, this world is harsh, unsafe and chaotic but man-o-man is it fascinating and full of life. Living in the community of this world and with each other we are going to be hurt and suffer for it but there are life giving resources all around us if we are willing to wake up and pay attention.
Give us the strength, God of Creation, to gird up our loins when we are consumed with our hurt. May we look around at all that You have created and see the life giving world that surrounds us. Amen.